Blackmore Bond/FCA Whitewash

Details of the reports I made to The FCA in March 2017 regarding Amyma and the Blackmore Bond have been well documented, and this particular article by Ben Chapman of the Independent features my reports and several other serious issues relating to the Blackmore Bond and the FCA’s actions, or lack thereof.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/blackmore-bond-collapse-administration-investment-scam-minibonds-a9489921.html

The lack of FCA action and communication both then and now is concerning, and continues to raise ever more serious questions as to the honesty and integrity of The FCA and those within that continue to conceal, stonewall and even publish false representations in respect to the Blackmore Bond.

First however, we need to wind the clock back a little to the FCA’s statements after the collapse of LC&F. The FCA claimed that the LC&F Mini Bonds were ‘beyond the FCA’s regulatory perimeter’. In July 2019 they published this statement to that effect.

“The FCA’s view is that issuing mini-bonds is not normally a regulated activity so that firms issuing mini-bonds do not usually need to be authorised by the FCA.”

They did, however, also add this important statement “However, when an authorised firm approves a promotion for mini-bonds, they must ensure that it is in line with FCA rules that the financial promotion is fair, clear and not misleading. This means, for example, that risks are required to be appropriately communicated.”

In June 2019, The FCA produced a ‘Perimeter Report for 2018/19’ that sought to establish what was and wasn’t within this FCA Perimeter. The full report can be found here.

https://www.fca.org.uk/publication/annual-reports/perimeter-report-2018-19.pdf

I refer you to this all important statement on page 7:

“Our Mission explains that we are more likely to act if we become aware that the unregulated activity is illegal or fraudulent, has the potential to undermine confidence in the UK financial system, or is closely linked to, or may affect, a regulated activity.”

Therefore, from the FCA’s own statements it is reasonable to conclude that:

a) If The FCA can act when they discover that a financial promotion by an authorised firms is NOT fair, NOT clear and IS misleading, there MUST be a greater power and imperative for them to act when they discover precisely this same wrongdoing being carried out by a non-authorised firm. What is the point in any firm becoming authorised if they would be sanctioned for a particular activity, but free from sanction for the same activity if they CHOSE not to get authorised?

b) The FCA has the power to act, and indeed admit they are more likely to act if it is brought to their attention that an ‘unregulated’ activity is unlawful and could undermine confidence in the UK Financial system.

My reports to The FCA in March 2017 were clear and specific. Quick recap here.

MY FIRST EMAIL TO FCA – MARCH 6th 2017:

From: Paul Carlier <paul.carlier@live.co.uk> Subject: Are you aware of this firm? Date: 6 March 2017 at 17:05:59 GMT
To: Whistle <Whistle@fca.org.uk>

John,
If you’re not aware of a firm called Amyma (http://amyma.co.uk/ )you should perhaps explore them.

They occupy the office next to us and the glass partition means we hear everything they say and do.

In a nutshell Boiler Room. Have a read of this thread I found when looking up one of the “investments” they are pushing.

http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=5608646

They are pushing all manner of these bonds to pensioners citing them as “guaranteed by one of the worlds biggest banks”.

Their sales spiel is something to behold.
“Our Applixation for FCA authorisation is being processed”.
They are not FCA authorised and laugh between each other when anyone uses that line on a call.

“Everything is guaranteed”
“I’ll put you down as a sophisticated investor”

And their phone rarely ever rings and assume from the fact that they have to ask people’s names that cold calling in some form is involved.

Paul

I followed this up on March 7th with a further email telling The FCA:

John,
Please stress to whomever you pass the Amyma info to that pensioners are clearly being targeted.
It’s not just a Boiler shop issue but activity related to misleading pensioners, vulnerable under the new rules.
Paul

I made this further report on March 13th 2017:

Hi John,

FYI these guys are still pushing this Blackmore Group bond product.

Just overheard the pitch again: 9.9% yield
Interest paid quarterly
£75,000 maximum investment All guaranteed.

Paul

These were followed up in August 2019 with further reports and concerns sent directly to Andrew Bailey and Mark Steward when I discovered this same Amyma outfit pushing other bond on the same basis. The first indication I had that The FCA must clearly have ignored my reports.

Now jump forward to April 28th 2020 and the article written by Michael O’Dwyer of the Telegraph.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2020/04/28/fca-warned-three-years-ago-promotion-collapsed-blackmore-bond/

The significant concern here is the statement made by The FCA Press Office to O’Dwyer. They state:

“Neither Blackmore Bond PLC nor the minibonds they sold are regulated by the FCA.”

This is a knowingly false representation.

  1. EVERYTHING I reported to The FCA was specific to the way in which these Bonds were being promoted and marketed.
  2. By the FCA’s own admission, had an FCA authorised firm been making such statements to promote a financial product, even a non-regulated product, The FCA would have taken action.
  3. This is further proven by the FCA’s confirmation to O’Dwyer in the same article “In a separate FCA intervention, Amyma Ltd’s website was taken down. Amyma Ltd no longer has permissions to conduct regulated activities.”

PLEASE NOTE: The action they refer to only occurred in September 2019, long after the sale of the products had ceased. The horse was but a dot on the horizon by the time The FCA closed the stable door.

4. Importantly, however, it proves that The FCA only acted and only sanctioned the firm for the same activity I reported two and a half years earlier, after the firm had become authorised.

5. The specifics that I reported in respect to how these products were being promoted and marketed demonstrated clear dishonesty, and certainly made with intent to make financial gain by those making these statements and these assurances to consumers, mostly pensioners.

6. The consequences of these actions would almost inevitably result in damages to the consumers and the resulting backlash and loss of faith in The FCA that the avoidable collapse of Blackmore and LC&F has caused, all of which can only serve to destabilise the financial system.

7. As per the FCA’s own Perimeter Report they therefore had the power to act in March 2017.

8. Furthermore, within my emails I report that this firm is telling potential investors that their FCA registration is in process, and are also falsifying the sophistication of potential investors to whom they are speaking. How can neither of these issues not also be within the FCA’s perimeter?

The FCA could have intervened in March 2017 and could have prevented all of these losses and the associated other financial and psychological consequences that go with them.

THEREFORE, the statements made to O’Dwyer by The FCA spokesman presumably from The FCA Press Office, but presumably given to him by a far more senior figure within The FCA, are knowingly false.

The day after O’Dwyer published his article I attempted to contact The FCA Press Office and challenge the statements they had made in this article. I made multiple calls, each time leaving my name and number to a person answering the Press Office phone having been promised a call back.

No call was ever returned.

So, I emailed The FCA Press Office instead.

The FCA provided several statements, presumably of truth and fact, to Michael O’Dwyer for his article published last night in the Daily Telegraph.
I have some concerns relating to those statements, and some further questions, if you would be so kind as to answer.
1. In the article the FCA state:

“Neither Blackmore Bond PLC nor the minibonds they sold are regulated by the FCA.”

Q. I will come to further concerns with this in a following question, but can you please explain why this was never mentioned or explained to me at the time of, or at any time subsequent to, my reporting of the Blackmore Bond to the FCA in March 2017?


For the record, had the FCA done so, I would have seen to it that this was reported to a different authority, regulator or law enforcement agency AT THAT TIME!


2. My report in March 2017 detailed multiple counts of wrongdoing, including:
A) False representations being made, and made with intent to make financial gain and/or cause loss to another or expose another to risk of loss. 

Q: This is pure and utter nonsense as we all know, and not only now, but back in March 2017 when this report was made. So, did you report the evidence or suspicion of fraud to any law enforcement agency and, if so, which?


B) Falsely representing that their FCA authorisation was in progress. A fact that you could have instantly verified from your records.
Q: Are you saying that a firm falsely representing that they are in the process of being FCA authorised, is not within the FCA’s scope or remit?


C) Knowingly and falsely, attributing ’sophisticated’ status to pensioners and individuals that they clearly knew were not sophisticated.
Q: As you know, this is a trick used by banks also so as to criminally sell products and then claim the client was sophisticated and therefore they were not acting in an advisory capacity. Are you saying that the FCA has no scope or remit when it comes to firms falsely representing the ’sophistication’ status of individuals, the result of which would potentially disqualify this person from certain regulatory protections, and possibly prejudice any civil action the individual might otherwise have been able to bring?


D) My report included the FACT that this firm was cold calling these pensioners and individuals which clearly qualifies all of this as ‘Financial Promotions’ and ‘marketing’.
Q: The FCA has gone on record confirmign that ‘Financial Promotions’ and the ‘marketing’ of these products is within their remit, scope and regulatory framework. Why are you ignoring the marketing of this product in this statement to Michael O’Dwyer, and in all other statements that I’ve so far seen on the matter?
Q: In your statement to Michael O’Dwyer you claim credit for the FCA for having forced Northern Provident Investment to withdraw approval for Blackmore’s financial promotions. HOWEVER, the FCA register for Northern Provident suggests that FCA ‘approval’ for the Blackmore ISA only occurred on 12th June 2019. Why did the FCA wait for over two years following my report, that clearly included the Financial Promotion and Marketing of this product, before taking any action in respect to it?
Q: Is it not also disingenuous and/or misleading to imply by way of this statement that the FCA did act upon my reports, when in fact the FCA did nothing for more than two years after my initial reports?
Q: Is it not disingenuous or dishonest to imply the removal of approval for the Financial Promotion of this Blackmore Bond was even relevant by this time, given that it had been forced to stop taking in new investment anyway?

3. The elements of my March 2017 reports from B-D as listed above are all clearly within the FCA’s scope and remit of authorisation. However, you have claimed they were not, so please provide a brief chronology in respect to when the FCA reported any of these elements (A-D) to other bodies, Treasury Select Committee, HM Treasury, other regulators or law enforcement. I and the public don’t need any detail other than the date you reported it, and to whom.
I remind you that the FCA and other regulators pressures firms and especially staff to report even the suspicion of wrongdoing, money laundering or crime, and with the toughest of penalties for those that don’t report even if they only potentially witnessed the conduct in question. The FCA and all other regulators are bound to do likewise.

4. Furthermore, in the article, the FCA is quoted as saying:

“In a separate FCA intervention, Amyma Ltd’s website was taken down. Amyma Ltd no longer has permissions to conduct regulated activities.”


Q: The FCA register shows that FCA approval for Amyma did not cease until 2nd September 2019, a full two and a half years after my first reporting of this firm, and a full year after my subsequent reporting of this firm. Is it not disingenuous at best to imply and mislead the public in to the false perception that the FCA did act and di act in a timely and appropriate manner, when cleay the FCA did not?


5. How did the FCA allow Amyma to become an approved AR on 2nd July 2018, more than a year after my reports that made it clear to the FCA how this firm operated?


6. Did the FCA investigate the source of funds used by Blackmore to pay some dividends that Blackmore did eventually pay late? Were they paid from genuine returns or were they paid from funds from other sources?

That email was sent on April 29th 2020.

On April 30th, I received this response from The FCA Press Office

Dear Mr Carlier
Apologies for the delay in coming back. I’m afraid that the press office is only able to answer questions from journalists. We suggest your questions are best addressed to our consumer contact centre.
Best wishes
Ruth 

So, I escalated my requests in this email to Mark Steward and John Dodd of The FCA on the same April 30th. I requested a response with the answers by 5.00pm on May 4th.

To have made that statement to O’Dwyer, they must have been in a position to answer ever question I had presented, because all of this must have been considered BEFORE giving that statement to the media intended for public consumption.

No response was received. I emailed Steward and Dodd on May 5th:

Mr Steward and Mr Dodd, 

I did reasonably ask for answers to my questions by 5.00pm yesterday.

None of these were difficult for the FCA to answer since they were all specific to the represenations made to Michael O’Dwyer by the FCA and quoted in his article.

I appreciate that to answer them honestly, would prove the knowingly false or misleading nature of the representations, but you do not have the luxury of not commenting or not responding at all. That’s reserved for criminals upon the advice of their lawyer when in an interrogation room.

Or do none of you know the answers to these questions? That would be doubly disturbing given that you made such emphatic statements of truth and fact for that article.

Please confirm whether you are going to answer any of these questions at all, or if I need to submit an FOI request for each of them individually?

Steward resented this email, but whilst expressing his annoyance, failed to address or answer any of the issues.

Steward became increasingly agitated over the following days, first claiming that his and the FCA’s views on Blackmore differed from mine, before hastily backtracking when I clarified what he meant by this.

However, he continued to avoid addressing any of the questions put to The FCA, all specific to their statements made to the public via O’Dwyer’s article.

Therefore on May 20th, I submitted a formal Freedom Of Information request to The FCA, addressing it to Steward, Toby Hall (FCA lawyer), The Executive Casework team and The FCA Press Office.

Good morning,

Please find below a formal FOI. Should be simple enough to answer given it relates to statements made by the FCA to the public via the media, so presumably you will have considered this question and produced an answer internally prior to publishing. If you didn’t, that’s just further shocking failings. 


FOI REQUEST 
In the Telegraph article by Michael O’Dwyer the FCA state:”Neither Blackmore Bond PLC nor the minibonds they sold are regulated by the FCA.”
Can you please explain why this was never mentioned or explained to me at the time of, or at any time subsequent to, my reporting of the Blackmore Bond to the FCA in March 2017?


It would not have involved any breach of data protection, or FSMA or other rule the FCA likes to hide behind, to tell me this conduct fell beyond the FCA regulatory framework.


For the record, had the FCA done so, I would have seen to it that this was reported to a different authority, regulator or law enforcement agency AT THAT TIME!


I look forward to your prompt response.
Paul Carlier

Please note that The FCA will refuse not to answer an FOI if it would taken them more than 18 hours to do so. They have used this method of concealment and non-disclosure with me before. Therefore, the questions in my email will be submitted one at a time so as to deny them this method of concealment and avoidance of response.

Albeit that The FCA has many other methods they use to avoid responding to FOI’s.

To date I have not received a response, more than three weeks later, I have not yet had a response.

I presented a copy of this article to Steward and The FCA yesterday to give them the opportunity to comment and challenge the accuracy of any statements within it.

Good afternoon,

Please find below the copy for an article I am proposing to publish. Please note this has not been published as yet. What you see below is the ‘blog preview’
You have until 5.00pm today to provide a comment for inclusion or to challenge any of the facts within.
You could of course also provide a response to the FOI by 5.00pm if not too much trouble for you.
Paul

In the interests of fairness and transparency, here is Steward’s response in full:

Dear Mr Carlier

The FCA has no comment to make in response to what you have written.  The fact that we have chosen not to respond does not mean any of your statements, assertions or allegations are true or that it is lawful for you to make such statements.  All relevant rights are expressly reserved.

Steward and The FCA had the opportunity to challenge everything within this article, but chose not to. And for the record, let’s be VERY clear, everything in this article is specific to representations they made in O’Dwyer’s article that were intended for consumption by the UK Public. Having made public statements, the public is entitled to seek clarification and hold The FCA accountable to them.

Indeed, I refer you all and Steward to these statements made by former FCA CEO Andrew Bailey in a Guardian article dated 27th September 2016:

“As chief executive of the FCA, I am responsible for the organisation that regulates the conduct of over 56,000 financial firms. I am rightly held to account – by parliament and ultimately by the public we serve. 

I believe in taking responsibility for my actions and that the FCA must live by the principles it espouses.”

Steward you will note also failed to provide the response to my first FOI.

I stand by everything written here. If The FCA had taken any one of these three steps in response to my reports of March 2017:

a) Investigate themselves and stop the further sale of these products and sanction the firms involved

b) Escalate my reports to a different authority in the event The FCA believed these issues to not be within their regulatory perimeter

c) Tell me that these issues that I reported were not within the FCA’s regulatory perimeter. (I would then have reported this to a different authority myself)

Then it’s my professional opinion that none of the money invested after the date of my reports would have been lost.

The FCA seeks to apply different interpretations to their own rules and previously stated positions, whenever they see fit, so as to fit their particular agenda on any given day.

Not this time.

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One thought on “Blackmore Bond/FCA Whitewash

  1. Heads should roll and for far too long this Corrupt regulator and it’s known associates should be named, shamed and ultimately brought to justice.

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